Almost one year ago, Anna Semioli was a senior studying accounting at Montclair State University. She was 2 months away from graduation when, just after midnight on Oct. 9, she was struck by a Dodge Ram 1500 pick-up truck on the side of Rt. 46. The driver, later identified as Michael Choynowski, 27, from North Arlington, was on his way to work when he hit something he assumed was a deer, according to his lawyer Emile Lisboa, then drove away.
Eleven months later, Anna Semioli is still suffering the consequences of the accident that left her in a coma in the ICU, caused “severe traumatic brain injury” and multiple broken bones and prompted 13 surgeries—including a craniectomy (removal of part of the skull to make room for brain swelling), according to her page on change.org.
She is no longer receiving treatment at Kessler Institute in West Orange, but is living at home where she is constrained to her bed due to little brain activity. “She’s not in a coma, but she’s not responsive,” explained family friend Richard Orsini, whose fundraising efforts provided the Semioli family with $32,500 to offset medical bills.
Anna eats her meals through a feeding tube, breathes with the help of a tracheotomy, receives acupuncture twice a week and cannot walk or talk, according to her sister Gina Semioli, who said that the family has been required to “jump through hoops” to provide her with the proper medical equipment and care.
“If someone’s in a bed 24/7, you want them to have a decent bed,” Gina said, explaining that they purchased Anna’s bed out of pocket because the insurance company did not deem it necessary.
Gina also expressed disgust at the “worst judicial system” which is handling the case of Choynowski. Choynowski initially was faced with charges of knowingly leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident resulting in serious bodily injuries and endangering an injured victim, but has applied for the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI), which will expunge his record of any charges if the program is successfully completed.
The Passaic County Prosecutor has the ability to reject Choynowski’s PTI application, though, and he would not be able to enter the program if the rejection stands.
“We all need to be held responsible for our actions,” Gina said, explaining that he not only left the scene of the accident, but also did not have car insurance. “Why should he be able to go freely with no consequences?”
Gina started a “Justice for Annie” page both on Facebook and change.org in order to “raise awareness” about Anna’s condition and Choynowski’s role in causing it. “I know her name is Anna, but we all have called her Annie since she was a baby,” Gina said, explaining the name of the page. The page has almost 1,000 likes on Facebook, and through its following Gina was able to gather 120 letters from Anna’s supporters advocating for her to the Passaic County Court.
“We have no other choice but to hang in there,” Gina explained, speaking for the entire Semioli family. “My mother never leaves my sister’s side. We are completely devastated.”
Gina made an appeal to the “cowards” from Montclair State who were with Anna the night of the accident and have not come forward with the details—where she was beforehand and why she ended up alone on the side of the highway.
“No one is speaking up,” she concluded with defeat.